Variables challenge Fastnet Race fleet
Published on August 7th, 2017
Cowes, UK (August 7, 2017) – Overnight the fleet in the 603nm Rolex Fastnet Race has been made solid progress upwind, tacking on shifts and dipping in and out of the land according to whether or not the tide is favourable.
At 0900 Tony Lawson’s MOD 70 trimaran Concise 10 was off the Irish coast just about to tack towards the Fastnet Rock while the next boat and leading monohull, George David’s Rambler 88 had rounded Land’s End, followed by SMA, the lead IMOCA 60, sailed doublehanded by Paul Meilhat and Gwénolé Gahinet.
The bulk of the handicap fleets were attempting to make progress around Start Point. With the exception of the fastest boats, all of the crews are scratching their heads about how the weather will pan out today with very little wind forecast around the Scilly Isles and a real risk of drifting into the prohibited zone that is the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) off Land’s End.
Approaching Land’s End this morning Sam Davies sailing, doublehanded on the IMOCA 60 Initiatives Coeur with Tanguy de Lamotte reported seeing 7 knots of wind from the southwest. How was her first night? “Busy! We did manage each to get two times one hour’s sleep because today is going to be even busier!” They spent most of the night short tacking, no mean feat in an unfamiliar IMOCA 60, particularly with sail to re-stack each time.
Their next call was whether to go west or east of the TSS. Leader in the IMOCA 60 class, SMA had already opted for the easterly Land’s End side along with IRC Z leader (and impressively within the top five overall under IRC), the 115 footer Nikata and Ludde Ingvall’s maxi CQS. “Luckily we will have the tide with us. From then on we see the breeze building back up in the Irish Sea,” said Davies.
There was some ladies’ fist shaking this morning when Davies’ old Team SCA crew mates Dee Caffari and Liz Wardley, aboard the VO65 Turn the Tide on Plastic, tacked right on top of them. “I thought they were going to sail across and say ‘hi’ and then tack like a nice friend would – because we are not in the same classes. But she tacked right on top of us, in the worst place you could imagine, when there was no reason to do it! And there was I about to say ‘hi’ to my best friend… Dee Caffari and Liz Wardley owe me a beer when I next see them…”
The Infiniti 46 Maverick, racing in IRC Z was half way between Start Point and the Lizard this morning. Tactician Michael Firmin was not only happy with their decision to bang the left side of the course yesterday after exiting the Solent. “We were hoping the models would play out and we’d see a big left shift which never really came, so there was stronger breeze and a slight right and people on the inside made out.”
At 0830 they had tacked away from the Eddystone south of Plymouth and were sailing in 9 knots from the west in 0.5 knots of adverse current. Fermin continued: “We are taking a leg out in front of a squall line to get a bit more pressure and hopefully a bit of a lift, just waiting for the change to come through. We are hoping the model gives us something better than what we are currently seeing which is quite light round the corner with about 4 knots of adverse current!”
At present a slow moving shallow cold front is lying across the course on a northeast-southwest axis. Firmin was also contemplating the Land’s End TSS, the left possibly proving attractive as the side where the wind was expected to fill in first later today.
In a similar location to Maverick was Gilles Fournier and Corinne Migraine’s J/133 Pintia, leading IRC Two on the water as well as IRC overall, from the Nicolas Loday and Jean Claude Nicoleau on the Grand Soleil 43 Codiam. Both boats benefitted greatly from going inshore at Portland overnight.
In the same class, Ireland’s Joan Mulloy and Cathal Clarke on board the Figaro Beneteau 2, Offshore Academy 21 were negotiating Start Point. “The night was good we made up some ground,” Mulloy reported. “We went really in close to Portland Bill and we were happy with that because we were looking bad coming out of the Solent and we’ve been a bit slow going around Start Point.” Clarke has spent much time below fixing a sail they had managed to blow up leaving the Solent.
“We are just trying to figure out what to do,” Mulloy continued. “We are watching people on the AIS to see what’s happening with the wind. There are two forecasts and there is a front and if that moved everything changes. I am trying to play it safe and stay in the middle.”
A record-sized fleet of 368 boats started the race on August 6, 12 more than two years ago, confirming the Rolex Fastnet Race’s position as the world’s largest offshore yacht race.
Background: The 603nm Rolex Fastnet Race is organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) and just 7 boats sailed in the first race in 1925. The race has been sponsored since 2001 by Rolex SA of Geneva and is legendary within the world of ocean racing. The 47th edition of the biennial race will start off the Royal Yacht Squadron line, Cowes, Isle of Wight on Sunday 6th August 2017. It is the largest offshore race in the world and attracts the most diverse fleet of yachts.